Mount Rushmore Itinerary

Old Mar 29th, 2005, 07:04 AM
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Mount Rushmore Itinerary

We are planning a trip to Mt. Rushmore the end of June with our 3 kids (4,9,11) & need some help please with an itinerary. After advice from the boards, we will fly into Rapid City and hope to see Mt. Rushmore that night. We'd like to go back the next morning to see it during the day. Can you help us plan the rest of our travel time? We plan to be there 5 or 6 nights. What route should we go to see Deadwood, Badlands,Crazy Horse, Wind Cave etc. We would love to stay maybe 2 nights in Custer State Park. Thanks for your help!
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 08:18 AM
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Going from memory here a bit....

Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse, Wind Cave and Custer State Park are essentially on the Southern end of the Black Hills. Deadwood is rather far North and the Badlands are about 2 hours East of Rapid City.

I would base my family in Keystone or Custer or even the Custer State Park for the first couple of nights. Given your time frame Deadwood may be too out of the way unless you have some compelling reason to go there. The attractions there are: The reenactment of the Wild Bill shooting and subsequent trial (which happens in the evening). Buy tickets for the trial in advance. Gold mine tours and panning for gold (which you may be able to do elsewhere but is a great kid thing). And perhaps the cemetery tour. After that, Deadwood isn't much for families IMHO.

I find the Badlands much more interesting and you can do Wall drug there as well.

I would scrap Deadwood and do the Badlands instead with your time. Doing both is going to require some long car days.

If you choose to do Deadwood, then spend the day there and do a couple hour day trip to Devils Tower, WY (fantastic) which will take you through Sturgis (also nothing special). Making that choice will probably eliminate the Badlands.
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 08:21 AM
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Whoops...In my comments about Deadwood, I meant spend the NIGHT there (not just the day).
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 08:49 AM
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I strongly suggest a stop at Storybook Island - a nursery rhyme themed playground. My kids loved it. The last time I was there, there was no set admission fee, just a request for a donation towards upkeep.

The School of Mines has a free geology museum that is worth a stop - though we didn't stay for a long time. You'll see some nice dinosaur bones, some glow-in-the-dark rocks, and some pretty crystals.

I've done both the Reptile Gardens and Bear Country - I would lean more towards the Reptile Gardens. The turtles were neat as were the Birds of Prey. I'm not a big fan of snakes so I breezed past those a bit.

Mount Rushmore has a "Junior Ranger" program. You kids get a booklet and they fill it out based on information found in the displays at Mt. Rushmore. When it is complete, they take it to a park ranger who will ask a few questions and give a certificate. You can buy the Mt. Rushmore Jr. Ranger patch for about $1. It's worthwhile because it keeps the kids hunting for information. The booklets are available for 2 or 3 different age categories.

We enjoyed the wildlife loop, the piggytail bridge loop, and the needles loop at Custer. Stop along the needles loop and let the kids get out and walk among the rock formations. My kids also liked looking for flecks of mica (the gold looking mineral) along the trail.

I'm told that there is a dinosaur museum/attraction near Hot Springs that is excellent but I haven't been there.

Maybe stop for lunch at one of the lodges - the ones near little lakes have paddleboats available for rent.

We've done the cavern tour and that was fun. Actually, it was a little scary the time we were there (not intentionally) during the big biker rally. Nothing like being underground with a bunch of bikers who smell strongly of liquor and then the tour guide turns off the lights to let you experience "absolute darkness".

Have you requested the free tourist information from the visitors bureau?
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 09:16 AM
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I'd also be inclined to tell you to do the Badlands over Deadwood. There are cabins available in the Badlands. Google "Cedar Pass Lodge Badlands" and it'll give you some websites. My major advice to you is that if you intend to stay in Custer State Park and/or the Badlands, and I highly recommend both, reserve VERY SOON. When we went three years ago, we made reservations in April for a mid-July trip and wound up with our third choice in Custer State Park.
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 09:20 AM
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One more thing...I believe the "dinosaur museum/attraction" ajcolorado refers to is the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs. An absolute definite must do with kids! And very interesting for adults too!
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 09:46 AM
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We spent two nights camping at Custer State park last summer toward the end of a month-long cross country trip. We absolutely loved it and we all agree that we could have stayed there a week! It is a beautiful park, kind of a mini Yellowstone, minus the geysers, and the lakes are smaller. We saw a ton of animals (all kinds)just driving through the park. The lodges are all interesting and all have cabins, too, I think. There's a neat park store, with food (we grabbed personal pizzas there our first night)groceries, souveniers, etc. The dining in the lodges varies, with something for every budget and taste. The park is a nice ride to Mt Rushmore (half hour, maybe?) We were pleasantly surprised by Mt. Rushmore... we'd expected it to be tacky and touristy, but the visitors center is very nice. We didn't make it to any of the lakes to swim, but there are several. Can't really comment on your other destinations, but feel confident you'll love CSP and MR. Have fun!
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 12:19 PM
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Thanks to everyone for the helpful info.
I will be sure to post a trip report afterwards.
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 05:09 PM
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We went to SD last year over Memorial Day weekend (2 adults, no kids) and were very pleased with the things we were able to do in only 4 days.

We arrived around 11 AM on Saturday and left from the airport for the Badlands. I don't remember the drive being much more than an hour to the entrance. We aren't hikers, but enjoyed the scenic overlooks. We stopped at Wall Drug. We were starving and ate there and thought it was decent for the price. From Wall we drove to Keystone where we spent the night. We went to the lighting ceremony, which was wonderful, but quite cold at the end of May. Hopefully June will be better.

We went back to Mt. Rushmore on Sunday morning and ate breakfast at the cafeteria. It was good and reasonably priced. We left Rushmore and drove to Custer State Park via Iron Mountain Road - a beautiful drive. Due to limited time we were only able to drive through Custer and make a few stops. We then drove to Crazy Horse via Needles Highway - another beautiful drive. From Crazy Horse we drove to Hot Springs to spend the night. While there we visited the Mammoth Hot Spring Site and found it very interesting. The next morning we drove about 10 miles south of Hot Springs to the Wild Horse Sanctuary. If your kids love horses this would be a great place to visit.

We left the sanctury around noon and drove to Deadwood. We really wanted to see Deadwood and weren't disappointed. There were reinactors on the streets. In the early evening there was the reinactment of the shooting of Wild Bill and the subsequent trial of Jack McCall. We really enjoyed the trial. Audience members are chosen to participate. We didn't have to have advance tickets and didn't have to pay admission. Not sure if this would be something your kids would like. Otherwise, Deadwood is gambling places and shopping.

We didn't get to go to Spearfish Canyon, but I've been told it is a beautiful drive. It is on our agenda when we get back to this area again.
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Old Mar 29th, 2005, 05:21 PM
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Looking forward to reading your trip report when you return. We'll be going to the same area in July. Have a great trip!
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Old Mar 31st, 2005, 11:45 AM
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We're also going in June, and would like to inquire further about some of the things mentioned in this thread. We'll be staying at Custer State Park for four nights. Specifically, where is the Storybook Island mentioned? How long a drive is it to the Mammoth Site? How long to the Badlands? Can these two things be done in one day? What about Wind Cave or Jewel Cave--anyone know how far one of these is from CSP?
Thanks for your help. I hope I'm not being rude by horning in on grdretreat's post!
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Old Mar 31st, 2005, 11:51 AM
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I agree with everything said about Custer State Park - I was so pleasantly surprised by it. I would also highly recommend the jeep tour. You get to go offroad where the public vehicles don't get to go and really into the buffalo heards. It was thoroughly enjoyable and you don't have to worry about trying to drive and see everything.
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Old Jun 17th, 2005, 04:47 PM
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Don't know if you've left yet, but here are a few things my kids (ages 15, 12, and 10 at the time) really enjoyed in that area: The Black Hills Maze (took most of us an hour to complete), Evan's Plunge (indoor water park fed by a hot spring). We panned for gold with Ken, of Ken's Rocks and Minerals, which was just at the East end of Custer, right on the main drag. Ken was over 90 at the time, an authentic old prospector, but he might not be living by now (we went in 1999). However, his son was also doing tours. Ken drove us out to a creek on his land, gave us waders to wear, and we waded into the creek. We panned with real pans and actually found a few tiny flakes of real gold (along with a bunch of little garnets). Much more interesting than the fake pyrite that is planted in troughs at the tourist traps. Ken gave an interesting talk on the geology and history of the area as we panned. He actually held my kids' attention for over an hour!
Mt. Rushmore at night is well worth the trip. When we were there during the daytime, a deer cam bounding right through the visitor's plaza!
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Old Jun 18th, 2005, 07:19 AM
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Everyone should treat themselves to the wonderful stuffed pretzels at the snack bar at MT. Rushmore. That and a rootbeer float made a great late afternoon snack.
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 10:21 AM
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Friends who went to the USA last year showed us photos at night put wre not as good as the ones they could buy, and they too said the night tour was great, if you search on Yahoo can you can photos of that tour, they said it can be cold!!
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